By the way Todd Callaghan is running youâ€™d think he was 24 not 44. The masters runner just wrapped up a brilliant 2014 mountain series, in which he was overall runner up to Jim Johnson, by finishing second overall at the Bretton Woods Fell Race to…Jim Johnson. Todd ran a 1:19:36 and was only ten seconds off of the winning pace. It wasnâ€™t for lack of trying either; Todd was arguably the most prepared person out there both in terms of training and course scouting. That guy went in depth in preparing for this and it nearly paid off. Here are some thoughts on the race from Todd:
For this race, did you have a plan going in as far as what route(s) you would take?
Yes. I tookÂ FridayÂ off and drove up to Bretton Woods to scope out the course so I could develop a good plan. Chris Dunn and the Acidotic folks were still setting up the course when I was on the mountain, so I didnâ€™t actually see where they were going to put the checkpoints, but I had a good idea from the map they provided. I had my running stuff on, but basically hiked the course, with some jogging between relatively flat sections. I did some exploration of alternative routes too, so it was a bit of a work out (I was on the mountain for three hours). I came to the mountain with a stapled stack of Google Earth blow ups of various sections of the mountain on which I had a potential route marked out and some dashed lines with alternatives. I also had a text write up from Len Hall, who scoped out the mountain the week before. As I hiked along my proposed course, I made notes on the maps and took photos of the course with my phone, especially certain marks such as snow guns, distinctive trees, buildings, etc. If youâ€™ve ever done any rock or ice climbing you know that a route looks very different when you are on it and looking up the steep climb than it does on a piece of paper. The night before the race, I went over the maps and notes and reviewed the photos on my phone and basically memorized my race plan and key waypoints.
Did it matter where your competition decided to go?
Absolutely not. I had my plan and decided early on that I was not going to listen to the buzz around me and just stick to my plan. There was a lot of chatter before the start of the race about what lines to take, but I didnâ€™t let it get into my head. I actually felt confident enough in my route, having scoped it out the day before, that it was hard during the race to not correct my competition (Matt Viega and Jim Johnson) when they headed off in a direction that I thought was not the best. I was all about tangents and trying to keep the punishing climbs to a minimum. When Jim and Matt strayed off to my left or right, I mostly kept quiet and let them find out for themselves. Early on, Jim realized that I knew where I was going and he adopted a strategy of following my lead. We ran basically side by side for the second half of the race (the part that was unmarked). Then, after the last of the six checkpoints, he ran ahead, got turned around and actually headed back uphill instead of heading to the finish. By the time he realized his mistake, I had almost caught up to him. In the end, we ended up only 10 seconds apart, but he is way faster than me downhill and should have been at least a minute ahead of me at the finish. In these types of races where you have to choose your own route, knowing ahead of time what you want to do and sticking to your plan is really key!
Once out there, did you stick to the plan (roughly) or did you end up doing something different?
I actually didnâ€™t make any decisions out there on the fly. Luckily, my pre-race prep was good enough that I didnâ€™t have to take out my map once to look it over. I was pretty efficient with 8.60 miles showing on my Garmin at the end of the race. Dave Dunham, who is well-known for his methodical race preparations and his orienteering skills, had 8.62 miles, so I was in good company. Matt Viega, who pulled into the lead after checkpoint C, had a route-finding mishap below the summit of West Mountain and ended up in third place with over 9 miles on his watch. The only route that I heard of that was more efficient than mine and Daveâ€™s was from a Bretton Woods employee who ran 8.4 miles (but finished well behind us time wise).
Finally, what was the most challenging aspect of this race?
The largest challenge to me was health. Iâ€™ve had a nagging knee injury for several weeks, and I spent the last 6 weeks painting the outside of my house, so my fitness is not at its peak right now and I wasnâ€™t sure how my knee was going to hold up on the steep downhills. I took a pretty good fall coming off the first hill, but luckily the grass was wet and I mostly damaged my ego. I like to think that the blood trailing down my leg made me look rugged, though. Iâ€™d like to give a big shout out to Chris Dunn and the Acidotic volunteers for putting on a challenging and fun race! Also, congratulations to all the Mountain Goats who completed all seven races in the New England Mountain Running Series and to Paul Kirsch and all the race directors who helped make this another great mountain running season!